by Louis Fowler
Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
Look, I am all for big, brash ’80s teen movies about solving life’s problems through dancing. But being a total dude, I like a little more masculinity to the filmed proceedings. You know … movies like Footloose, where totally macho men strip off their shirts and do barnyard gymnastics to anti-authoritarian tunes by Bonnie Tyler and Shalimar. I could relate to it, because in 1984, I was living it. But, sadly, with Girls Just Want to Have Fun, try as I might, I just couldn’t relate to Sarah Jessica Parker's plight of trying out for some sort of after-school Solid Gold rip-off and falling for her hunky dance-partner, gyrating to third-rate covers of a beloved Cyndi Lauper hit. Maybe you’re a woman with a different experience in the matter, to which point I concede to you that Girls is a real fun nostalgic trip. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to teach a rhythmless hick how to dance.
L. Frank Baum’s beloved fairy tale is updated and given a rousingly twisty-turny origin in The Witches of Oz. It has the look and feel of a big-budget movie from low-budget mockbuster mavens the Asylum, and no wonder: It’s directed by Asylum wunderkind Leigh Scott, whose previous contributions include Transmorphers and King of the Lost World. He makes a noble bid here, offering up true originality to the classic stories everyone knows; even at a patience-testing 164 minutes, he continues to pump your soul with a constant flow of imaginative eye candy. The main problem with Oz lies in the casting; you have seasoned pros like Lance Henriksen and Christopher Lloyd, but they are relegated to subtle side-roles as a cast of overacting first-timers who smile broadly and scream every line take the movie over, especially the abysmally fake Paulie Rojas as Dorothy, infecting the screen with such a fraudulent, drama-club saccharine bravado that it threatens to sink the entire movie. There’s no place like acting class, there’s no place like acting class.
Some movies just make you feel like a total pervy-creep. And I’m not even talking about full-on hardcore. I’m talking about movies that take you inside a world of voyeuristic darkness, where secret lusts are diligently explored in an intelligently disturbing manner that makes you feel bad about humanity and the depths of our depravity. One such film is the Julia Leigh/Jane Campion joint Sleeping Beauty, starring Emily Browning, the little girl from Lemony Snicket, all grown up but still looking like a little girl, which makes me feel even filthier. She plays Lucy, a broke, unhappy, sexually brash young woman who takes a job with a creepy Eyes Wide Shut-style bordello. She's paid to be rendered unconscious, then given to male clients for their elderly sex-needs. This being a Julia Leigh movie, I’m sure there’s supposed to be some sort of feminist undercurrent to the whole thing, but I can’t find it. And I’m too confused and bothered to look again.